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Anyone can call themselves a thought leader, but the true test of legitimacy is whether others would refer to you that way.

And what, exactly, is a thought leader?

A thought leader is someone who shapes the opinions and thoughts of others. They may also be called visionaries, experts, or authorities. They are well-known in their field and their perspective is often sought on industry matters.

Am I a Thought Leader?

If you think you may already be perceived as a thought leader, confirm it by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I have a unique point of view? Am I a “bold visionary?”
  • Do I have a sizeable list of followers?
  • Do people routinely ask for my advice or perspective?
  • Am I invited to speak at industry conferences or summits?
  • Am I a strong networker or connector?
  • Do I consistently share relevant content?
  • Am I a community builder?

Your answers to these basic questions should give you a sense of whether others in your industry view you as a thought leader. The more “yeses” the closer you are to thought leader status.

How to Become a Thought Leader

If you determine that your name may not necessarily be the first to come to mind when someone asks who the leaders in your field are, there are a number of steps you can take to elevate your professional status. Some of the most basic include:

Creating relevant industry content. Develop written, oral, or video content that shares your opinion and expertise on matters of interest to your field and share it widely.

Building a following. Add names to an email list and attract social media followers by sharing what you know on multiple online platforms.

Teaching. Pursue adjunct faculty and lecturer opportunities that affiliate you with an institute of higher learning, where you teach classes related to your area of expertise.

Industry leadership. Be an active participant in trade or professional associations. This goes beyond passive membership and includes chairing a committee, serving on the board of directors, or seeking nomination as an officer.

The downside to these is that they take time. 

But you can skip those steps and take a shortcut.

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